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What Confines a Christian?

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Title:                            What Confines a Christian?


Text:  1 Cor 8

Idea:  Love limits liberty:  Every yes contains a no when you follow Christ.

Purpose:  To illustrate that Christian love will limit your freedom to say yes to everything because every yes has a no.

KW:  Theology; Discipleship; Accountability; Freedom; Liberty; Love;

I.                   What limits my freedom as a Christian?

  • Today is the Super bowl and the leading candidate for MVP, Tom Brady, has recently told a reporter that he has questions about life and living.

Quarterback Tom Brady Still Searching

During the 2007-2008 NFL regular season, New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady set the record for most touchdown passes in a regular season, paving the way for his winning the MVP award. At the age of 30, he has already won three Super Bowls—an accomplishment that sets him apart as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

In 2005, Tom Brady was interviewed by 60 Minutes journalist Steve Kroft. Despite the fame and career accomplishments he had achieved already, Brady told Kroft that it felt like something was still lacking in his life:

Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what [it's all about].' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me? I think, 'It's got to be more than this.' I mean this isn't—this can't be—all it's cracked up to be."

Kroft pressed Brady as to what the right answer was, and Brady added:

What's the answer? I wish I knew… I love playing football, and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find.

Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; source: and 60 Minutes (CBS, 2007)

Will anyone in here take the time today to hold up Tom Brady in prayer?

  • Many of the Corinthians started life the same way; they had questions about their purpose. Along came a preacher by the name of Paul and he told them about a God who has a purpose for them.

  • But saying yes to Jesus doesn’t mean the end of all questions. As a matter of fact, the Corinthians had a list of questions to their leader. Questions about marriage, lawsuits, divorce, worship, spiritual gifts. In chapter eight of First Corinthians, the question is concerning eating something that had been offered to false gods.

While today we do not face the question of eating meat sacrificed to idols, we face many issues surrounding the ‘gray’ areas that impact our relationships with other Christians. (Issues such as alcohol, smoking, movies, work and sports on Sundays, etc)

So, today I want to answer the question, ‘What does it involve when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus?’

II.                It involves a relationship between knowledge and love; knowledge may say yes but love may say no.


1Co 8:1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: a  We know that we all possess knowledge. 18 b  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 

1Co 8:2 The man who thinks he knows something c  does not yet know as he ought to know. d   

1Co 8:3 But the man who loves God is known by God.


  • We must learn to understand the relationship between knowledge and love.

Knowledge and love can lead you in different directions. The First Century Corinthian church was a church on the move for God gaining much knowledge of their freedom in Christ. However, at times they lacked love, which is the great applicator.  

   The Corinthian church was one of the most important cities in Greece during Paul’s time. It had a population base of 700,000 and about 60% of whom were slaves. Many of the citizens were into gambling, legalized temple prostitution. It housed the Temple of Aphrodite (or Venus), and other cult temples designed to appease the gods of the Romans. A pagan temple could have as many as 1,000 religious prostitutes, both male and female. Nonetheless, the people in Corinthian church were much like us today. Like our churches in urban centers it housed many different national, social, economic and religious backgrounds. No wonder they had many different views in the church, causing Paul to write this letter. Can you imagine the questions and gray areas today's churches face?

In dealing with ‘gray’ areas Paul is teaching them some basic principles:

  • First, Paul is trying to teach them to separate the issue from the person.

   Corinth was a town with a large pagan temple and most of the meat available to purchase had at one time been part of the pagan sacrifices.  Part of the meat was burnt as an offering, part was taken by the priests for their meals. The rest given to public officials as part of their salaries. The rest was sold to the markets for general sale. Today, it may be boycotting a store owned by Hindu because he uses the money to fund his religion. Or, allowing a real estate agent to sell your home even though he is a practicing Mason. These are real issues for modern Christians today.

   Ron Lee summarizes, ‘Paul states the problem as it is. He does not sugar coat, take side, tro lessen nor hide the problem. He invites all to have an honest and open dialogue. Ron breaks the verses down for us; v1, "let’s talk about food t/ has been sacrificed to idols" He doesn’t say, "you people who believe this way and t/ way ..." We must learn to separate issue f/ people.
   Paul opens up with addressing the superficial issue first (v1), then, he addresses the real issue, the real motives, what is inside our heart (v1/b,c). Then he provides real solution in v3. ...arrogant (RSV, NLT), puffs up (NASB), i.e, self-righteous and self-importance. (Ron Lee)

While it first involves learning how to separate the issue from the person.

  • Second, Paul appeals to love as a trump card over knowledge when dealing with gray areas because knowledge can lead to pride.

Illustration: A man came into this church to discuss the issue of (end times?). After about 5 minutes of trying to give him an answer, I knew he didn’t want to hear an answer. He wanted to tell me what he believed and he wasn’t prepared to listen or accept what might be an alternate view of things. We are all like that man. I remember as a college freshmen arguing with one of my NT professors on how to interpret Matthew 5-7. He was so gracious with me. I left feeling intellectually superior but I was a really a fool. He allowed love to trump his knowledge (which was superior to mine) in order not to break my faith.

We must be gracious with others who may not hold the same knowledge of being a Christian in modern culture, or the same understanding of our freedom in Christ. To feel confident and assured, we must learn to separate issues from people and then learn to discern good from bad theology.

Knowledge may lead you to say yes to something but love may lead you to say no. When that happens, take loves lead. Love learns how to do the separating.

III.             It involves an understanding that yes will also mean no in Christian monotheism.

In dealing with gray area issues we must separate the issue from the person, and we must also ask seek the truth behind the issue.[1]

  • What is the truth behind the issue?

1Co 8:4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: f  We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world g  and that there is no God but one. h   

1Co 8:5 For even if there are so-called gods, i  whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 

1Co 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, j  the Father, k  from whom all things came l  and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, m  Jesus Christ, through whom all things came n  and through whom we live.

 What is Paul saying here?

The truth of the matter is there is only one God and one Lord.

The truth of that statement means you need to say yes to one God and one Lord only.

The truth of that statement means when you say yes to Jesus you also say no.

Let me try to explain that in more detail:

  • Saying yes to Jesus means saying no to Buddha and Allah and Jehovah Witnesses.

Ben Patterson, in his article entitled, ‘The inadequancy of yes theololgy’ writes,

‘Terror seized me by the throat a few months into my engagement to be married. Ardor turned to horror. Hot pursuit suddenly got cold feet. This came with a fundamental realization: If I had this woman, I couldn't have any of the others. If I said yes to one, I was saying no to millions. Not that this was the breadth of my options, mind you, but whatever options I might have had before I said my vows, they were no more after I said them.

Learning to say the yes and the no: Few issues portend so much for the future of the church, because none carries so much potential to fly in the face of the spirit of the age. I speak of the infatuation with pluralism and inclusivism and certain brands of multiculturalism; the belief in the egalitarianism of opinions and feelings—that it is not only wrong, but rude and bigoted to think that some people's ideas and feelings may not be as good or as valid as others. It's the "Who's to say?" syndrome: Who's to say what is right? The answer is everyone, or no one, or both. Whatever. It's cool.

Faithful stewards of the household of God must practice the discipline of saying both yes and no. It's hard, it's not fun, and it doesn't usually preach to packed houses. But believers in every age have had to learn it or lose the faith. It wasn't enough for Nicea to say that Christ was begotten of the Father. It had to say, "begotten, not made." It wasn't enough for the signers of the Barmen Declaration to declare that Christ was Lord; they had to add that Hitler was not.

Without declaring the no, we become the church that Machen observed in his day: "conservative in an ignorant, non-polemic, sweetness-and-light kind of way, which is just meat for the wolves."

When we say yes to Jesus, inevitably we say no to other gods or so called gods.  Unfortunately, many ministers do not teach nor practice a proper yes theology today. Many of them are more than willing to say ‘yes’ to Scripture that matches our current culture’s temperament on moral issues, but will not say no to those practices or beliefs that counter Scriptures teachings.

Current illustration:  Our South Okanagan Ministerial Association (local Pastors in area getting together to discuss how to bring Jesus to the community) couldn’t agree to a statement of faith because half wanted the ‘yes’ on the so called positive declarations of the Christian faith, but did not want to state the ‘no’. For example, while they believed and said yes to marriage they did not want to say ‘no’ to the idea that it only be between a man and woman.  While they said ‘yes’ to social righteousness, they did not want to say ‘no’ to moral unrighteousness. Our current ministerial is experiencing the same fragmentation today.

Every yes contains a no and your faith will thrive when you draw that out in real life.

What does it involve when we say yes to following Jesus?

IV.             Every yes contains a no when you follow Christ.



1Co 8:7 But not everyone knows this. o  Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, p  it is defiled. 

1Co 8:8 But food does not bring us near to God; q  we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

1Co 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block r  to the weak. s  

  • Godliness is when knowledge looks to love for application in matters of gray areas.  

Let love be the applicator.  For us today that may be more difficult than we think. While we don’t tend to deal with issues like food offered to idols, we do find Christians divided on issues of freedom like…

Drinking alcoholic beverages;  Smoking or chewing tobacco;  Card playing;
Wearing makeup;  Dancing;  Playing and/or watching sports on Sunday;
Styles of music  Going to the theater; Going to the movies The practice of meditation;
Styles of dress; Gambling; Playing the lottery; Having Christmas trees; Celebrating Halloween; Making Easter eggs.

All of these are in the gray areas in Christian living.

We have the choice to choose and it is this option that really what makes us godly.   Peter Kreft says free will in the absence to choose wrong is logically impossible. It is like having colorless colour. We have a choice to choose a path that pleases us or a path that will override our rights to please another.

Illustration:  Imagine that you had invited someone over to your home. Let’s suppose there was a skunk outside and something scared it so that it gave off its scent. The smell begins to enter the home. You immediately reach up for your favorite air freshener and start to spray the room. Your guest begins coughing and can barely breathe. You recognize the person is having an allergic reaction and their airway is quickly closing, what would you do?

A. Keep spraying the house until the skunk sent is all gone.

B. Stop spraying the house with the freshener and help your friend in whatever means necessary to get them to the hospital.

C. Look at your friend and wonder why he or she does not have enough faith to overcome the air freshener. Or

D. Let your friend know you are sorry the air freshener offends them, but you have every right to spray your house to make it smell good. (Borrowed from Rick Gillespie-Mobley (contributor ID 5503))

The Lord’s Supper was the intended feast for Christians, they did not need to participate in pagan feasts. This is why Paul reminded them of who they belonged to.

  • The Lord Supper is a time to remember that yes to the cross meant a no allowing evil to continue forever and ever. Every yes to Christ contains a no. When I say yes to the Father I say no to the damnation of the world.

WWJD?  Being free to do as he would please he would choose to do what is best for you!

He faced that decision in the Garden of Gethsemane. He struggled with the weight of what was going to happen to him. He realized that many people would not care about his sacrifice. He resolved in his heart before the Roman soldiers came to seize him that he was not going to do his will but the will of his Father in heaven. This was the only path to freeing you and I.  This is our only path to stay free ourselves, by giving of our rights to the Father.  

Communion is the reminder of acting out of love, not mere knowledge.

Love limits liberty:  Every yes contains a no when you follow Christ.

Read from the Apostles Creed before administering sacrament of holy communion.


[1] Both ideas from Ron Lee’s sermon on this text.

[2] From sermon preached by Paul Decker on same text.

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